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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Who Was Sarah Abbie Wood? Ancestral Healing: Part 1

Vintage Photograph, Sarah Abbie Wood Pettengill
Sarah Abbie Wood, 1911

Sarah Abbie Wood was my paternal grandmother. As you can see, the photo here is dated 1911. She was 18 years old. She was a governess for the children of a captain of a coal schooner. She was strong and possessed the courage to live out to sea, which was not an easy life. The schooner traveled between Boston and the Chesapeake Bay. The coal was used to power Boston.

Sometime after that experience, she met her husband, Ramsey A. Pettengill. It was meant to be, or none of us would be here. She named her second son after the famous English poet, Milton. His middle name may remain a mystery. He does not recall. It could be one of the famous poets/ writers: Eliot.

Unfortunately, her light was dimmed when she was young. It is only during the past few years that I have become aware of how much we were alike: how to admire and love her rather than fear and loathe her as directed by a false narrative.

False narratives or "no narratives at all" shape us as individuals and collectively throughout history. It is when we discover lost, hidden stories, or incorrect information that we can find the healing that we did not know existed. Acknowledgment is often enough; judgment does not belong. We must seek with a pure and open heart, correcting and illuminating whenever appropriate and possible. It is important to remember that we were not there.

This is my work. Until now, much of my published work has been about (but not limited to) the county poor farm, the mills, placed out, and Irish immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century.

I knew that at some point, I would learn, research, and write about Sarah. I have also devoted a semester at Vermont College researching my 17th-century ancestors and founding fathers present in the New World. It was not glorious. We (Ingersoll's) were persecutors in Salem and much more.

A continuous stream of information comes to the surface. I am going to share what I discover. Lately, it is about Sarah. The world only knew her shell. She had shut down, and rightly so. What is now emerging paints a very different image. It is more validation for me to continue to write what I know and listen, always listen to the elders.


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